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Question 1

Why is the concept of 'fear of crime' problematic? How does it influence behaviour - if at all - and what is its link with actual levels of crime?

CONTENTS PAGE

1. Introduction..........................................................................1

2. Why is the concept of 'fear of crime' problematic.........................1-5

2.1 Fear of crime matrix

3. Whether such a fear influences the behaviour of the public............6-16

3.1 Three types and models of behaviour relating to the fear of crime

3.2 Media influences

3.2.1 How is the social reality of crime different from that portrayed by the media?

3.2.2 Do the media help form our attitudes to crime?

3.2.3 How might media portrayals of crime be politically and culturally influenced?

3.3 Measuring crime (Official statistics, victimisation and offender surveys)

3.4 British Crime Survey

4. The actual links of crime ....................................................17-18

5. Conclusion......................................................................18-19

6. Bibliography....................................................................20-22

1. It is evident that fear of crime influences human behaviour making it more difficult for individuals to enjoy their lives as freely as they would be able to. The complexities faced in explaining fear of crime is that it is difficult to estimate individuals' perceptions of risk. As a result, we may observe the behaviours but can only predict the degree of connection between people's particular behaviour and the likelihood of being at the risk of crime. Such an interpretation illustrates why actual crime and people's perceptions of crime are complicated to understand. The media have a substantial role to play in shaping the perception of fears associated within society.

2. Fear of crime is a complex part of most sophisticated societies, and is best accounted for in areas such as crime prevention, policing and public policy research. The concept of the 'fear of crime' has developed over the years, thus, leading to much controversial debates as to what the fear of crime might be and how it might be measured. Kenneth Ferraro, defined the 'fear of crime' as

"an emotional response of dread or anxiety to crime or symbols that a person associates with crime"

Wayne Morrison emphasised that the definition of what constitutes a crime is problematic in itself as it has led many criminologists to try and define such a difficult concept. For example, the most accepted definition was provided by Glanville Williams:

"an act that is capable of being followed by criminal proceedings, having one of the types of outcome (punishment etc) known to follow these proceedings"

Furthermore, in support of Morrison, McCabe explained there to be much disagreement over defining what crime is; "there is no word in the whole lexicon of legal and criminological terms which is so elusive of definition as the word 'crime'". The notion of crime is considered problematic because each individual's fear might not be the same as another's anxieties about one's position and identity in the world, thus, the concept of fear of crime "always involves the problems of representation, interpretation and meaning".

Writers such as James Q. Wilson argue that there is little point in attempting to explain crime, instead the controlling of crime should be the primary focus; this position is referred to as 'right realism'. Wilson's thesis concentrates on the theory that crime begets crime, as a result, if a smashed window is not replaced, this indicates to the community that no one cares for the property, consequently, leading to more windows being smashed by criminals. Furthermore, Wilson contends that the government should not waste time on attacking the root cause of crime, instead, should aim on achieving more 'realistic goals' which will have a real and quantifiable affect on recorded levels of crime, as well as on the fear of crime. For instance, the police should adopt a 'zero-tolerance' policy, in which they 'sweep the streets of undesirables' , and strictly prohibit behaviour such as drunkenness, vandalism and rowdiness in neighbourhoods as this can cause people to be fearful of crime due to the area in which they live. Right realists contest the view that crime is a by-product of poor social conditions, they believe criminality is more of a complex mixture of socio-environmental, psychological and biological factors.

2.1 In terms of the concept 'fear of crime', there is a clear distinction between the public perception of crime and the social reality of crime. The fear of crime matrix below signifies this:

High crime, high fear

Where there is a high level of crime, a high fear of crime would be justified, by which it is rational for people becoming too fearful to report crime. Crime reduction measures need to be introduced to reduce the level of fear, community crime prevention policies such as regenerating the neighbourhood in which people live, would aim to create a safer surrounding, thus, reducing fear or crime.

Low crime, higher fear

The concept of the fear of crime being problematic is where there is a low level of crime but people have an irrational fear. The fear or risk paradox illustrates people at the least risk of victimisation tend to be the

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